Ahead of the assembly polls, the Maharashtra government has announced regularisation of unauthorised occupants in the 56 transit camps of the Maharashtra Housing and Area Development Authority (MHADA) across Mumbai. In another pre-poll largesse, it has also rolled out a slew of incentives for housing societies and plot owners opting to self-redevelop plots.
Of the total 21,135 transit tenements, meant to temporarily house those residents of the perilously run-down old cessed buildings in South and Central Mumbai, nearly 40 per cent or 8,448 are illegally occupied. A 2010 MHADA survey had found two kinds of illegal occupants — those who have purchased the tenancy rights from the original tenants by way of a power of attorney or an unregistered transfer deed, and those who have simply encroached on the public property. While a proposal for their regularisation was first okayed by the state cabinet in February this year, the housing department, on Friday, issued a notification for implementing it.
According to information, there are 3,802 cases (out of 8,448) where the tenancy rights had been purchased, while the remaining 4,646 cases are plain encroachment cases. The regularisation move would not only ensure that these families no longer face the threat of eviction, but will also be eligible for a new house just as the original tenant would have been.
Ironically, the state’s law and finance departments had earlier objected to it. In an official note, the law department had argued that “doing so would violate Article 14 of the Indian Constitution”. Article 14 of the Indian Constitution, which was referred to by the law department, states that the “state shall not deny any person equality before the law or the equal protection of the laws within the territory of India”. Contending that going ahead with the move would be “inappropriate”, state’s legal advisors have also warned that this could also amount to “contempt of court”. The law department, in the official note, had mentioned ongoing cases in the Bombay High Court, where the state had been directed to evict the squatters in transit camps. The finance department, too, concurred with this viewpoint.
But the housing department has argued that while the bonafide tenants will be offered free-of-cost owned accommodation in the redeveloped transit camp buildings itself, those who have illegally purchased tenancy rights would have to pay construction cost and infrastructure costs for the redeveloped tenements. It has further said that those lacking any paper work to show for their unauthorised occupation will also have a cough of a 25 per cent penalty, over and above such construction and infrastructure costs, for the new homes. The government had earlier approved a policy to redevelop these transit shelters. Further justifying the move, the government has said that besides the rehabilitation of the existing tenants, the move will result in the generation of 4,500 new affordable houses.
Residential housing societies opting for self redevelopment will be entitled to 10 per cent additional buildable space for their redevelopment projects. With builders facing a liquidity crunch, the state government has accepted recommendations of a high-level government panel, rolling out area and fiscal incentives to promote self-redevelopment.
These included ten per cent additional floor space index (buildable space) for such projects, and ten per cent additional tenement area to the apartment owners. Such projects will also be entitled to concessional premiums for the paid FSI component and open space deficiencies, stamp duty waiver, and a four per cent interest subsidy for construction loans availed from banking institutions. The housing department, which issued orders in this regard on Friday, has also asked planning agencies to reduce levies collected for ‘land under construction’ in such cases, while the state will also move the GST council for a rebate in GST to such projects. While the Maharashtra State Cooperative Bank is proposed to be appointed as a nodal agency for guiding the redevelopment process, various district cooperative banks will be the lead agencies for such projects in their own districts. Buildings over 30 years of age will be eligible to apply under the scheme. The government has also announced the setting up of projectwise vigilance committees and mandatory registration of contractors to safeguard the rights of the occupiers.